This archive contains all issues prior to the current week and the three
preceding weeks, which are published in
the main Tallrite Blog (www.tallrite.com/blog.htm).
The first issue appeared on Sunday 14th July
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#18 - 24th November 2002
For anyone with but a modicum of
knowledge about dealing with offshore oil spills, the bumbling approach of
the authorities to the leaking, 26-year-old tanker Prestige over the period 13th to
19th November has been a laughable charade.
The situation was, of course, not
helped by the many countries involved. The 82,000 tonne vessel,
carrying 70,000 tonnes of fuel oil, was :
|US-inspected. This voyage saw it |
Russian crude oil |
Singapore (or Gibraltar, say the Spanish)|
by France, Spain, Portugal when it ran into trouble. |
was extraordinary to note that, as she floated stricken,
booms surrounded the tanker to contain the leakage and |
was no evidence of trying to transfer the cargo to another
logical procedure was to tow the Prestige shoreward to calmer waters where
containment and transfer could safely take place.
in the best NIMBY tradition, France, Spain and Portugal each vetoed
bringing the tanker any closer to their coastlines.
for no scientific reason that anyone has put forward, it was towed 60
miles offshore into ever worsening weather, leaving a trail of some 10,000
tonnes fuel oil behind it to contaminate sealife, birds and 50 km of
landfalls. Unsurprisingly, the added mechanical stress of the towage
in bad weather resulted in the ship breaking in half and sinking, bringing
60,000 tonnes of fuel oil down with it.
now lies under 3,600 metres of water. The one saving grace is that
the temperature at this enormous depth will be zero
Celsius or colder. So it is possible the fuel oil will solidify
or thicken such that leakage is minimised over the long years ahead.
But any non-disastrous outcome will be no thanks to the non-planners who
issued the orders.
lawyers are gearing up for litigation as everyone starts blaming
everyone else and looking for compensation. The complex
international of web of responsibilities means this will be a wonderful
earner for the legal profession for many years into the
the ecological front, the good news is that the birds and fisheries will
with time fully recover, as they did in just a few years after the Exxon
sentencing of 83-year-old Giulio
Andreotti, seven times prime minister of Italy, to 24 years in jail
has sent shockwaves
though the Italian political classes and beyond. Scion of the
Christian Democrat party, he is convicted of contracting the murder in
1979 of a muckraking journalist to stop him publishing some of Mr
Andreottis dirty deeds.
Hands campaign of the early 1990s swept much corruption from
Italys political landscape. Judges and prosecutors snared
dozens of politicians and their financial sponsors in corruption trials
that terminated the careers of a generation of political leaders and sank
the Christian Democrats as a party. Italians by and large welcomed
the Clean Hands campaign as a much-needed civic revolution, but by now had
thought it had run its course.
current prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, founder of Andreottis rival
Forza Italia party, (says
he) is outraged, Andreotti
is the victim of an administration of justice that has abandoned every
formal scruple and totally denies the right of people to have a fair trial.
he would, wouldnt he ? Throughout his own 1½-year tenure of the
top job, he has been fighting corruption charges of his own and pushing
laws that make it easier for him to escape a proper trial, much less
imprisonment. The last thing he wants is for Clean Hands to
raise its ugly head again, for fear it points in his
if a flaky country like Italy can administer savage punishments to its
once untouchables, there is no excuse for the judiciary in any country not
to apply the full force of anti-corruption law to the politically powerful
and wealthy. And there is no shortage of European candidates,
from countries big and small. For example, Chancellor Kohl
of mighty Germany and Taoiseach Haughey
of tiny Ireland spring to mind.
the recent NATO summit in Prague, Canadas communications director,
Françoise Ducros described President George W Bush as a moron.
To Bushs relief, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien accepted her apology but
refused her offer to resign. Gregory Weinkauf of the Dallas
Observer calls him a retarded
monkey. The internet joke circuit abounds with jokes about
his dumbness and there is even a website called www.presidentmoron.com.
W must be enjoying these epithets which emanate mainly from the Wests disgruntled intellectual
Left, from people sometimes called champagne
socialists. For they demonstrate the Lefts continuing
misunderestimation of the President. This allows him to happily
out-manoeuvre them at every turn, while he demonstrates some of his
formidable leadership attributes :
focus on just a handful of themes (eg tax cuts, the War on Terror)|
skills on a par with those Great Communicators Ronald Reagan and Bill
a few of his achievements :
tax cuts within a few weeks of taking office, |
rating soaring from 48%
on election to 65%
today (equivalent to the entire population
of Australia switching from Al Gore to Bush), |
the UN Security Council to give unanimous backing to his
on Iraq, |
both Congress and the Senate with comfortable majorities. |
the Democrats learn to respect his abilities, they havent a hope of
turfing him out of the White House in 2004. Meanwhile, what must
they feel like, being defeated by a retarded monkey moron ?
him at your peril. Saddam is one who should heed this advice.
On 14th November, fifty women from
West Marin in the USA were serious enough about PEACE
to spell it out, wearing nothing but the afternoon rain. Making
their bodies a figure of speech, they wanted to show
solidarity with the people of Iraq
commune in their nudity with the vulnerability of Iraqi innocents.
They hope President Bush and news
media take notice. Not just salacious males.
One wonders what the good Muslims
of Iraq feel about being represented in this prurient un-Islamic
have known for some years that red wine is a healthy
supplement to our diet, diminishing heart disease, improving the
cholesterol count, reducing blood clots.
this were not good news enough, Scotland is now considering
adding vitamin B1 (thiamin)
to beer to to cut down on alcohol-related brain damage. A study
costing £1m has said it will work and thats good enough for me. No
doubt Glasgow of a Saturday night is full of willing
about the widow who waited in vain for her husband to return from the
American Civil War. Follow these instructions
carefully. Itll take less than a minute.
#17 - 17th November 2002
Laden and the Latest Audio Tape
Well, the four-minute bin
Laden audiotape broadcast on Al Jazeera TV last week seems to be genuine according
to US officials. In it, the
speaker praises the recent attacks in the Middle East and Bali and hits
out at President Bush and Washingtons international allies, singling out Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Australia as countries
that should take heed.
their science, including the voiceprint technology that helped lead to
the capture in Karachi of Ramzi
Benalshibi last month, it is unlikely the unnamed US
officials are wrong.
If so, this
is the first confirmation we have had of Osama bin Ladens survival since he released a
defiant hour-long videotape
way back last December. You have to wonder, therefore, why he
produced no more than an audio tape of a mere four minutes, rather than
another lengthy video tape ?
most probably because he is indeed
to put in a protracted performance and |
to let people see him in his reduced physical condition. |
still out there; hes still a threat; but clearly he is no longer a happy
of Gordon Browns Five uro Tests
Brown has been Britains Chancellor (Finance Minister) since Tony Blairs
Labour party came storming to power in 1997. A major reason for
landslide victory was the disarray and disunity within the ruling Tory
party over whether Britain should join the common European currency, the
uro, egged on by rampant opposition to the uro among the media and
as soon as Labour took office, the
uromood changed to one of considered curiosity,
and one of Mr Browns first acts was to declare that Britain would
consider joining the uro if and when five so-called economic
were met. These are
- Does the economic cycle of Euroland converge sufficiently with that
of Britain ?
- Are uroland markets flexible enough to cope with economic shocks ?
- Will Britains adoption of the uro improve investment
opportunities in Britain ?
- Will the impact on Britains financial-services industry be
- Will adoption of the uro be good for employment and growth ?
Think of each question. Apply it to your own country.
|Couldnt you argue that the answer is YES ? |
|Or, as easily, NO ?|
But Mr Brown presented these tests - and continues to do so - as things that are
measurable, objective, that will yield specific, unique answers, that are
therefore not subject to political whim.
Now if you were to set yourself some sort of measurable target, whether as
something you really wanted to achieve or to avoid, wouldnt you want to know
whether over time you were getting closer to it or further away ?
Yet there is no desire or effort whatsoever by Labour or any party or
anyone else to determine
progress towards meeting these economic tests. It is amazing that
five long years after they were defined, no-one still has any idea if
Britain is any nearer to them.
Mr Browns position
has simply been that at some point in the future an assessment will be
made on the basis of which a uro referendum will or wont be
called. Most recently, the Queens Speech of 13th November said
judgment on the five economic tests would be made by next June.
tests are of course nothing of the sort. They are
merely a (not so) cunning ruse devised by Mr Brown as a cover for making a
uro decision to be driven solely by political considerations.
The economic and business merits and
demerits are playing no rôle whatsoever in the British Governments
decision-making. There is, of course, nothing wrong in taking positions
based on politics and ideology as your sole criteria, though you
should at least be honest about it.
But what is extraordinary is that both the
opposition parties and the media seem more than happy to go along with the subterfuge of the five economic
tests. Here is a golden opportunity to show up the venality of
the British Government, yet they are either too blind, too stupid or too
timid to exploit it.
How long would you take to thoroughly learn a 600-page
book off by heart ? Learn as in able to recite it from memory, cover
to cover. Learn it so exhaustively that you could recite any page
when given the page number. And know how many words there are in the book,
how many full stops. Not only that, but recite it in a foreign
language of which you cannot speak or read a single word. Oh and
recite the whole book backwards as well. All 600 pages.
Mehyar Hussein Boor from Iran achieved
this feat in just six months, studying 2½ hours a day. At the tender age of ten.
Hes now eleven.
The book ? The Holy Quran, written in classical
Mehyar, who now gives lectures on Islam and the Holy Quran in Iran and
abroad, recently competed against 70 contestants for the Dubai
International Holy Quran Award.
Each competitor must answer five queries from the judges and recite
passages from the Holy Quran. Seventy marks are given for
memorisation and a further 30 marks for quality of recitation. The
winner receives 250,000 UAE Dirhams (= US$68,000), followed by Dh150,000 for second
place and Dh100,000 for third place.
Mehyar, who was the
youngest contestant, reached the final six though was not a winner.
Before you consider plastic surgery, have a look at what
its done to the talented Michael
Jackson. He is so distressed by the publication of this and
other photos of him attending a court case (where he is being sued for $21
million for allegedly backing out of two millennium concerts) that
he has been skipping court appearances.
Feb 03 Note : The above link seems to have
been removed. Click here
instead for a video clip.
Killing Your Own
He has bombed his own people. He has
gassed his own people. He has a
horde of weapons of mass destruction.
Lets roll out the red carpet. Come on down, Vladimir
a special round applause from Russias Chechens and
apologies to Loman
Oh, and at a recent press conference in Brussels, he said that
people who want to become Islamic radicals, such as impudent French
reporters, should come
to Moscow for circumcision
and that nothing
on you will grow again.
What a charming man.
heard of Pamplonas annual running of the bulls.
Well that is tame compared to what the Spanish town of Pedraza gets
up to. They dont rely on
boring old bulls to terrify the young men.
No - for them its squirrels.
But be patient, its a 4.8 Mb video file
#16 - 10th November 2002 
Anti-Warriors' Sterile Arguments
There are countless westerners in the US and (especially) Europe who
are virulently opposed to the concept of a war against the Iraqi regime
for any reason. Gerhard
Schroeder, Chancellor of Germany, is but
one. Others include US
organizations. But such anti-warriors seem to share three
which together expose the sterility of their arguments.
The first is a singular lack of appreciation of how the world has changed since the Twin Towers attacks last year. That dreadful event,
|followed by among others the recent attacks on the French oil tanker, in Bali, in Moscow, and |
|preceded by the bombings in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania and - yes - the Twin Towers in 1993|
show the unrelenting face of organized, Islamic-centred terrorism that
is already engaged in a merciless and savage war against the free,
Next, the anti-warriors never ever come up with a coherent alternative strategy for dealing with the terrorism, other than
| to do nothing, or |
| to negotiate but with no fallback proposals should negotiation fail. |
They also bandy around speculative figures such as tens of thousands of civilians will be
killed without a shred of evidence, not least from the recent wars in Afghanistan and
Thirdly, they bring up
| the West's lamentable acceptance in the 1980s of the bad behaviour of
Saddam - if not complicity with it, as well as |
| the presence of oil in Iraq, |
as two classic - but utterly non-sequitur - reasons for doing nothing about him today.
Saddam's track record of :
|invading neighbours, |
|gassing his own people, |
|repressing their freedoms, |
|financing Palestinian suicide bombers, |
|flouting 16 UN binding resolutions, |
|building up weapons of mass destruction (WMD), |
demonstrates his malevolence beyond all reasonable doubt. He cannot be allowed to continue, because it is inevitable he will sooner or later use, or allow to be used, his WMD to terrorist ends.
|9/11 showed the necessity for pre-emption; |
|President Clinton showed the folly of doing nothing substantive. |
Security Council members are to be congratulated for their rôle in disarming Iraq by backing the
recent UN Security Council resolution (you can find the full text here). Those who are actually
providing tangible support should be even prouder. Such behaviour will help make the world a safer place for all.
Meanwhile, read this chilling post-2004 letter
from Saddam Hussein which starts, Dear
Madam President Clinton . Share it with your
friends. It might further stiffen spines when considering whether or not
Saddam must be stopped.
Flying Guantanamo Class
View these four grim photos
that have just emerged of prisoners being transported by air, presumably
Al Qaeda suspects on their way to Guantanamo Bay. Hooded,
restrained, sitting/lying on the floor, under military police guard, you really do not want to make
this trip yourself.
Somewhere within the vast landmass of China live a man and woman and
their twelve-year-old son. The family were kidnapped by the
Chinese Government in December 1995 and have been held incommunicado ever
since, under protective custody say the Chinese. The boy, then five, is the cause of this. His name is Gedhun Choekyi
Nyima and seven years ago the Dalai Lama identified
him as as the eleventh Panchen Lama of Tibet.
The Panchen Lama personage originates back to the Fifth Dalai Lama who in
1642 gave the title Panchen
Lama, meaning Great Scholar, to his teacher
the Abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery in order to consolidate power. Since then, the Panchen Lama, held as the protector of all the
world's living beings, has been second only to the Dalai Lama in the
hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhist religion, culture and politics. Reincarnations have
followed the death of either.
The tenth Panchen Lama died
in 1989 aged 51, of a heart attack say the Chinese, of murder say many
Tibetans. A lengthy search
in accordance with Tibetan Buddhist tradition ensued, and eventually in May 1995 the Dalai
Lama decided that
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is the latest reincarnated Panchen Lama.
The avowedly athestic Chinese, who have occupied (and brutalized) Tibet
since 1949, were furious because they wanted to make their own nomination
so as to obtain greater control over Tibetan Buddhism. Upstaged,
they nevertheless went ahead and enthroned
six year old Gyaltsen Norbu as Panchen Lama in December 1995, and
have been promoting the unfortunate child as an icon with pictures of him hung throughout
This battle of grown-ups over two young children is truly depressing, a
reminder of the Chinese government's oppression of
the Tibetan people and their religious freedom for over 50 years. It is
hard to see
|either the Chinese releasing the Dalai Lama's nominee thereby
undermining their own, |
|or the Tibetans hailing the Chinese nominee as their true Panchen
Nigeria Picking Fights
known as the Giant Of Africa for its giant population of 130
million, has had a relatively peaceful relationship with its neighbours for
most of its 40 years of independence. Its only significant conflict
was the Biafran civil war of the 1960s. Since then the military,
notwithstanding repression and corruption under its various military
dictatorships, has nevertheless done
itself considerable credit in the role of UN peacekeeper in a number of West
such as Sierra Leone,
Liberia, as well as elsewhere.
In the post 9/11 environment and immanency
of war with Iraq, Nigeria's
quality of oil, |
reserves of both oil and gas, |
to the US, |
democratish, comparatively stable regime|
has caused America to take a new and special look at the country.
American investment in the hydrocarbon industry is already being stepped
up. ChevronTexaco's recent
decision to spend $1.3 bn on a new gas plant is but one
new found influence and respectability has perhaps emboldened the Nigerian
Obasanjo in his foreign policy.
For in the space of a few weeks, he has started picking fights with two of his nearest neighbours -
Cameroon on its eastern border and the tiny island country of Sao
Tome and Principe to the south-east.
row with Cameroon concerns the disputed 50 km2 Bakassi
Peninsular which divides them, which is populated 95% by Nigerians
and which has great oil potential. The dispute dates back
to a 1913 border treaty between Germany and Britain who were then
the colonial masters of Cameroon and Nigeria respectively. |
The UN International Court of Justice has recently ruled
that it is Cameroon that is the rightful owner of the rich Bakassi region
including its offshore provinces, and of course the associated natural
resources. But President Obasanjo doesn't
accept the finding and says he wants to meet with Cameroon's President
Paul Biya to "forestall a tragic border war", which
is clearly a
thinly-veiled threat of military action. He asserts that the judges of
the international court may just look at treaties and give judgment,
but we cannot do that ... What may be legally right may not be
politically expedient to Nigeria.
Cameroon would be no match for mighty Nigeria, so the latter will
probably get its way in the end, UN court or no UN court.
issue with former Portugese colony Sao
Tome and Principe (let's call it STaP) is a slightly
different border dispute. This 1,000 km2 little
country comprises a pair of eponymous islands lying
500 km due south of eastern Nigeria and west of Equatorial
Guinea. Between the seas off the two countries is a disputed
band of water known as the Joint
Development Zone (JDZ) where oil development is
supposed to be conducted on a joint basis. It seems STaP's President
Fradique de Menezes , without consulting Nigeria, has signed
agreements with ExxonMobil and other companies giving them special
in the JDZ. To add salt to the wound, he has apparently
compared STaP's relationship with Nigeria to that of Kuwait with
All this has infuriated President Obasanjo who has blocked the
scheduled joint auction by Nigeria and STaP of exploration acreage in
But this dispute may be solved without war. The STaP parliament says the president acted beyond his powers, so
it will remove the portfolio from his remit
altogether. No doubt little STaP will bow to the Giant of
Both incidents illustrate the old unjust adage, Might is Right.
Though to be fair, in the case of STaP, you could say right is
American Tale of
Australia's The Age newspaper reports
that never can there have been a greater shoplifting scandal in California
than the one that unfolded this week.
Leonardo Andrade was appealing to the Supreme Court his 50-year sentence
for stealing just $300-worth of videotapes to watch with his kids. Although he had never committed a
violent offence, he had two previous convictions for theft, so the savage
sentence followed from
California's three strikes
and you're out
And then there was convicted filmstar shoplifter Winona Ryder (who,
interestingly, is the god-daughter of the 1960s rebellious, LSD-proponent
hippy professor Timothy Leary).
She stole $10,000 of designer clothes, but won't be going to jail.
Instead a bit of community service for her - typically cleaning highway
litter in a fetching orange jumpsuit. Her defence was that she was
practicing for a movie role, so I suppose we're lucky the rôle wasn't that
of a serial killer.
For a country built on a foundation of justice, the disparity of
treatment between a nobody and a celebrity is extraordinary.
Potter and the Vibrating Broomstick
second Harry Potter movie,
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, will be
released on 15th November and no doubt will soon be on its way to breaking
can buy all kinds of Harry Potter memorabilia
for your kids, such as cups, costumes, puzzles, ornaments, posters,
T-shirts, towels, even a Nimbus 2000 broomstick from the first
blockbuster, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
But not just a
boring one - toymaker Mattel have come with a $20 broomstick which uses
batteries to make noises and vibrate. As you can see from the this
picture, boys sit astride it and imagine they are flying just like
Harry Potter, with the broom emitting realistic whooshing sounds, while
quivering as if alive.
has excited (if that's the word) lots of sober comment. Boys
love it, apparently, but get this. It seems their sisters love it
even more and keep stealing it. Parents don't seem to know why, but
they note that the girls lose interest when the batteries are
and the manufacturer Mattel - while asserting there is nothing, er, inappropriate about this
enterprising little product - have nevertheless removed all trace of it from their website.
Do you think they're embarrassed ?
Trick of North Over South
Savour it; it rarely happens.
On a single day, the Northern Hemisphere defeated
the three behemoths of Southern Hemisphere rugby.
England beat New Zealand's All Blacks in London for the first time since 1983,
with a scoreline of 31-28; |
|France cruised to their biggest ever victory over South Africa's Springboks by
winning 30-10 in Marseille; |
|And in Dublin, Ireland beat Australia's world champion Wallabies for the first time in
23 years; the score was 18-9. |
In the coming 12 months, expect a terrible revenge !
#15 - 3rd November 2002
Why Must US Action on Iraq Go Through the UN ?
The Americans are bending over backwards to secure a
workable United Nations Security Council
resolution that will support an attack on Iraq in the event weapons
inspection fails to disarm Saddam.
is the only permanent member to support this approach.
The other permanent members
France, Russia and current president China are all threatening to veto it if its teeth are
too sharp or are even there.
Councils ten non-permanent members (Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Guinea,
Ireland, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Singapore and Syria) are split in their support to say the least.
In the end, Americas threat to exclude non-supporting countries
from any role in a post-Saddam Iraq may be sufficient to secure a
satisfactory resolution, though this is not certain.
But answer this, why should America go through the
UN anyway ?. No-one else
They just decide to act and then act.
But everyone every time thinks America should go through the UN.
The UN is not a supreme body; it is a collection of
States trying to resolve things through talks.
But UN representatives are not all from
democratic governments appointed by their people.
Many in fact most are dictatorships in one form or
another with no mandate from their people.
They also vary hugely in size, from China (pop
1.3 bn) to the Pacific island dot called Nauru (pop
Should they all carry the same legitimacy and weight
? And insofar as America sees
its move against Iraq as part of its own self-defence, is anyone entitled
to tell it not to proceed ? Another
country may disagree that America is under threat, but does the simple
fact of disagreeing
give it the same authority over America's security needs as America itself
The UN cannot prevent American action against Iraq, which remember will merely be
the enforcement of the UN's own binding resolutions on disarmament. If it fails to
support America, the UN will therefore be failing to enforce its own
resolutions, which is to advertise their worthlessness to the rest of the
Moreover, no resolution will ever condemn America's behaviour in Iraq
or anywhere else, no matter how outrageous, because America would obviously veto
it. (Same goes for Britain, China, France and Russia).
why does America even bother with the UN ?
| it is at
heart multilateralist, |
| it believes in the UN, and |
| it wants to maintain the UN's moral authority and
But maintaining the
UN's moral authority and standing can only happen
if the other members of the Security Council also desire this. It is
their commitment to the UN ideal, not America's, that is truly on test.
Generation and Disposal
of Solid Waste
There is a widespread belief that consumerist Western societies are
drowning - or will before long drown - in a sea of solid waste.
|Al Gore, in his 1992 book, Earth
in the Balance, spoke of the floodtide of
garbage spilling out of our cities and factories and vast
mountain ranges of waste. |
|Isaac Asimov and Frederic Pohl in Our
Angry Earth, used phrases like we are running
out of places to put [new] landfills.|
It is true that as people increase their wealth so they increase the
amount of waste they generate. This chart, based on World Bank and
other published data, illustrates the effect across 39
According to the OECD
using 1999 data, Americans produce the most garbage - 2 kg/day each,
|1.3 kg/day for France and Britain, |
|1.2 for Germans and |
|1.1 for the Japanese. |
Moreover, the amounts are double what they were in 1966 and are still
However, the environmental impact is not what these figures might
suggest. This is because, due mainly to incineration, recycling and
amount going to landfill has actually been on the decrease since the
1980s, even while total garbage has been increasing.
Moreover, modern lifestyle changes have in many cases actually reduced waste - for example 100 years ago
each American generated 1.8 kg of coal ash alone. At the same
time, the streets were awash, if that's the term, with horse manure, flies
and disease. This
meant that the arrival of the motor-car was seen to bring major health and environmental
In trying to assess the magnitude of the waste problem, we need however to look
not to the past but to the future, and America is the best place to use as the model as it is
the biggest refuse producer. Currently America sends 110 million
tons of garbage a year to landfill. If we assume this figure will
increase to take account of generally accepted estimates of :
|increasing wealth and|
then how much landfill space is needed for the next 100 years ?
The calculation says 900 billion square feet. It sounds a massive
look at it this way. A typical landfill is 100 feet deep; this would
site of 324 square miles to take care of all America's needs.
Again a large-sounding
figure. But it is only 0.009 percent of the landmass of the
USA. Put in this context, there is without question plenty of
landfill space available for the next 100 years, in America and everywhere
And when you think
of how the world is likely to develop in the next century, the picture
looks even better. Future economic growth in the developed world,
where most of the waste is produced, is
going to be concentrated in the service industries and IT, which are much
less waste-producing than old-style heavy industry. And even in manufacturing,
competitive pressures will ensure that the trend towards lean and
mean, and producing more with less continues. For example, just think how
light-weight plastics and composites have
replaced clunky steel in the manufacture of cars. And look how
packaging has been slimmed down over the past decade.
But problems will remain. Though landfill might require only
0.009% of space, no-one wants such a site in his or her own backyard;
we're all NIMBYs at heart. But this makes it not a problem of physical
space but something for politics and
society to resolve through the democratic process.
A lot of people dislike hearing that disposing of waste is merely a
management issue not an environmental one.
But it is, and should therefore be tackled with reason not
Fiasco Over Diana's Butler
So the trial of Paul Burrell - butler and rock to the late Princess Diana
- for stealing 310 of her possessions, has collapsed
in a farce. Out of the blue, the very day before he was due to
testify in open court, Queen Elizabeth has suddenly confirmed
that Burrell informed her five years previously that he was hanging on to some
of the items
for safekeeping, meaning there was no intent to thieve.
21 months ago, a few hours before the police arrested him, Burrell submitted to
them a 39-page statement on the matter. This, among other things, claimed
he had had a private conversation (lasting three hours, no less) about the items with the Queen.
This is where it gets curious :
|Why did the police neither
|ask him what transpired in the conversation, nor |
|ask the Queen for her version ?|
|Why did Burrell not inform even his own defence team about the
conversation until now ?|
|Why did the Queen remain silent for so long, and abruptly come clean
now ? |
|Does Burrell have information that the Establishment would prefer
not brought out in open court ?|
|What about the remainder of the 310 items ? |
Conspiracy or cock-up ?
I go for the cock-up theory every time, because conspiracy is usually
far too complicated for the incompetent players to engineer.
But the police, Burrell and the Queen, all making themselves look
utterly foolish all at the same time ?
It does make you wonder ..........
Making a Bad Deal Good
According to World
Oil magazine, Andy, a city boy, moved to the country and bought a donkey
from an old farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next
A day later, the farmer came rattling up in his old truck and said,
Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.
Andy replied, Well then, just give me my money back.
Can't do that, the farmer said, I spent it
Andy said, OK, at least give me the donkey.
The farmer laughed and asked, What are you going do with a dead
I'm going to raffle him off, Andy replied.
Now laughing even harder, the farmer said, You can't do that!
Sure I can, said Andy, I just won't tell anybody he's
A month later the farmer happened to run into Andy and asked, What
happened with that dead donkey?
I raffled him off, Andy explained. I sold 500 tickets at $2 a
piece and made a profit of $898.
Didn't anybody complain? asked the farmer.
Just the guy who won, replied Andy. So I gave him back his
Then, Andy, whose surname was Fastow
grew up, eventually becoming the Chief Financial Officer of Enron.
40 year old Andrew Fastow, Enron's former chief financial officer,
has been charged
in a criminal complaint with fraud and conspiracy. When he was called
before the House Energy and Commerce Committee early in 2002, he exercised
his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to answer
Mixing Miles and Kilometres
Ireland, rather like
a number of other ex-colonies, likes to
do many things simply because they are not British. In the 1970s, it
adopted kilometers as the official unit of measurement of distance instead
of Britain's miles, and at the same time was able to demonstrate its
Europhilia. Road direction signs were changed throughout the
land. (Though not all. To this day, you can drive past an old
direction sign saying Ballina 10, meaning miles, and a few
minutes later see a new one proclaiming Ballina 15, this time meaning
Meanwhile, Ireland continues to drive on the
left like Britain, which is a tenfold bigger car market. Therefore
right-hand-drive cars are supplied to British specs with the speedometer
in mph. For this reason, speed limits were not
So you have the odd situation that miles are
in kilometres and speed in miles per hour.
Well a new
minister has promised
to fix this and change all the speed limit signs to kph. And if
the speedo of your British-spec car reads mph and your odometer reads miles ? Tough.
We'll still fine you for doing 50 mph in a 50 kph zone.
an Irish solution for an Irish-created problem !
Social Insecurity in the US
Switch on your speakers and enjoy this little animated
designed to frighten Americans into voting Democrat in the upcoming
to Top of Page
to Tallrite Blog
Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s
incredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics